The Argument from Being does not establish that we are distinct from God
at all. If we were somehow identical to God, then our being would be being itself,
and our continued existing would be obvious. This argument, by itself, can lead
to several non-theistic accounts of the manner in which we depend on God. For now,
I only explain what these other accounts are. Then at the end of the chapter, after
the next Argument, will we have the logical means to discriminate between the other
accounts and core theism.
The first non-theistic account says that all things of creation--all of us finite
individuals--are in fact equal to God. This appears to solve the problem if
all of us really are God (or Gods) though we simply never knew it. This is pantheism:
that everything is God. An equivalent formulation is to say that “God is All That
Is." Every smallest atom, every last bacterium, every planet, every galaxy, would
then in fact be God. Religious life would then consist of learning (or remembering)
this fact, which on the face of it is not obvious. It might be justified by Jesus
saying that “the Kingdom of God is in you"8.4
or Sankara saying that “everyone is in fact Divine."8.5
Certain mystical experiences, such as those arising in nature mysticism, certainly
appear to show that the Divine is present in all of nature, and these can be used
to support pantheism. In the next chapter I will dispute pantheistic belief. Here
I only note that its simplicity seems attractive intellectually. However, most of
us, on practical reflection concerning our state in the world, cannot bring ourselves
to believe that we are identical with God. Our everyday world certainly seems to
be far from God.
A second non-theistic account states that the everyday world is an illusion:
a false appearance produced by imperfect perceptions. Reality--if only we realized
it--is actually the Infinite glorious God and only that God. This account
is called non-dualism, and asserts that our everyday world is maya, a veil
or an illusion. There appears to be a duality between the Eternal Brahman
and the world of finite creatures, but reality is actually non-dual. Only Brahman
exists, and the religious task is to acknowledge that in our souls.
There are further accounts which develop some kind of monism about what exists.
In Idealism, God is taken as some kind of thought (or thinker) that includes all
our individual ideas that appear to make us separate. There is even a way to bring
in materialism, if we take energy as eternally existing and therefore divine. In
that case, God (as being itself) is identified with energy, and then, according
to our Argument from Being, is the being itself of everything that exists. We see
that it is sometimes strangely difficult to distinguish pantheism from materialism.